A global perspective is developed on a number of high impact climate extremes in 2010 through diagnostic studies of the anomalies, diabatic heating, and global energy and water cycles that demonstrate relationships among variables and across events. Natural variability, especially ENSO, and global warming from human influences together resulted in very high sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in several places that played a vital role in subsequent developments.

Planned adaptation to climate change requires information about what is happening and why. While a long-term trend is for global warming, short-term periods of cooling can occur and have physical causes associated with natural variability. However, such natural variability means that energy is rearranged or changed within the climate system, and should be traceable.